Co-op pledges boost in spend on British produce

The Co-operative supermarket is pledging to spend 10% more on British produce every year for the next three years for its own-brand range.

See also: Co-operative Group shocks industry over farm sale

This will amount to an additional £146m spent on food from British farms over that period, with the additional produce coming from a mix of current and new farmer-suppliers.

New producer groups will be created for egg producers, turkey producers and vegetable growers, and the aim is for all those supplying the own-brand range to eventually be members of a Co-operative producer group.

Senior agricultural manager for the supermarket Keira Gorst said the biggest challenge to increased sourcing would be in beef, since this was the largest volume category and tended to be made up of a high number of producers.

She said she would consider looking into how the Co-operative’s dairy group, currently standing at 206 farmers, could feed into products beyond liquid milk and whether there was opportunity to further extend sourcing of British lamb. 

By openly reporting on progress made, she hoped farmers and growers could gain a better understanding about supply chain challenges from a retailer perspective. 

The increase will take the Co-operative’s current spend on home-grown food in its own-brand range from £440m this year to £586.3m in 2017.

The Co-operative Group’s food policy manager Catheryn Higgs said it was a “recommitment” to what the supermarket already did, but that it also had been “time to reconfigure” the business.

Ms Higgs said the decision came after 90% of customers said supermarkets should sell more food from the nation’s farms and 81% of British farmers said retailers should support UK farming by only selling home-grown meat and poultry.

She asked the farming industry to hold the supermarket to account if it failed to deliver on its pledges and said that progress would be reported on in detail annually via the Group’s ethical policy report.

The Co-operative, the UK’s fifth biggest supermarket (with a 6.4% share of the grocery market) , has a good track record for buying British.

Good buying practice (own-label)

Beef

100% British

Chicken

100% British

Beaded and coated chicken

100% British

Duck

100% British

Ham*

100% British unless continental variety eg Parma ham

Fresh pork including sausages

100% British

Turkey

100% British

Eggs

100% British

Milk

100% British

Butter

100% British

Cheddar and other territorial cheese excluding continental varieties

100% British (80-85% British across all own-label cheeses)

Chilled ready meals

100% British, except continental ingredients eg chorizo

Room for improvement (own-label)

Lamb

100% British when in season, but NZ “out of season”. The supermarket extended its “British lamb” season by about one month this year.

Pork products

Bacon is a mix of British and Danish

Forecast spend in 2014 on British produce in own-brand fresh and prepared products

*Bacon, pork and sausage

£54m

*Chicken

£112m

*Beef

£111m

*Lamb

 £6.5m

*Cooked meat (eg ham)

£44m

Milk, dairy and produce lines

£100m

*Plus ingredients (pork, chicken, beef and lamb when in season) in prepared products £13m

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